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Front Page » Top Stories » Push Nets Jobs For 1700 Veterans

Push Nets Jobs For 1700 Veterans

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Written by on July 4, 2013

By Scott Blake
Since late 2011, Miami-Dade companies have hired about 1,700 veterans, aided by a program focusing on helping US military personnel returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a program official said Tuesday.

The goal of the Joining Forces Miami program is to ease the transition for service men and women and their families from the military to civilian life — an acknowledgement of the sacrifices and hardships they may have faced in duty.

Local employers such as healthcare company Baptist Health South Florida, security firms G4S and AlliedBarton, and trucking company Ryder have taken the lead in hiring veterans, said Diana Gonzalez, program coordinator for the Miami-Dade Defense Alliance.

"We do have very committed local companies even before we reached out to them and encouraged them to hire vets," Ms. Gonzalez said. "We’ve established relationships with major companies. The fact that we were able to bring attention to the issue" has helped a lot.

The US government is offering tax credits to employers that hire veterans who have been unemployed, and federal grants are being made available to organizations such as the Defense Alliance to carry out various initiatives, Ms. Gonzalez said.

The Defense Alliance is a program of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s public-private economic development partnership. The alliance brings together representatives from various agencies and businesses to work on enhancing the defense industry and related issues in Greater Miami, including veterans hiring.

A number of companies working in cooperation or partnership with the Defense Alliance have made it a point to fill job openings with veterans, especially those returning from the latest US campaigns in the Middle East. Fifteen to 20 of the largest companies in the area have played the biggest part in the hiring, Ms. Gonzalez said.

In addition, Wal-Mart announced this spring a company initiative nationwide to hire 100,000 veterans returning home over the next five years, she said.

Joining Forces Miami, she said, targets veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or their spouses, although it is open to military personnel from all past wars. The idea is to put their training and experience to use in some way in the private sector.

At the same time, she noted, placing veterans in jobs can be a challenge because of the issues they often have after serving in a war zone.

For example, the US Department of Veterans Affairs released a report last fall on post-traumatic stress disorder that showed that since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, nearly 30% of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Veterans’ advocates called the report the most damning evidence yet of the profound impact that multiple deployments have had on American service men and women since 9/11. Troops who have been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan are more than three times as likely as soldiers with no previous deployments to screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression, according to a 2010 study.

"It’s easy to say that veterans are unemployable," Ms. Gonzalez said. "For some, it’s hard to get a job or hard to keep a job. But others mesh [back into society] easily."

In Miami-Dade alone, Ms. Gonzalez said, there are some 68,000 veterans, and that number is growing as military personnel come home as the Middle East campaigns wind down. While the area’s unemployment rate has fluctuated between 8% and 10% in the past year, the jobless rate among veterans is significantly higher here and across the US, she said.

The local veterans employment initiative is an offshoot of a national program by the Obama White House. Other areas from Georgia to Kansas to California also have made it a priority to help place veterans into jobs, Ms. Gonzalez said.

"Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned," the program’s web site states.

One way to track veterans when they return home to different parts of the country, including the Miami area, is when they register for services with the US Veterans Health Administration.

That’s just one way to identify those who may be in need of jobs, Ms. Gonzalez said, but the thrust of the program is working it from the employers’ end.

The national program covers three areas: employment, education and wellness. In addition to veterans, their spouses often need job assistance.

"In many cases," the web site states, "military spouses move from one community to another when their spouses are assigned to new duty stations. These transfers can make it very difficult for spouses to continue with their careers or to find similar jobs in new locations."To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.

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